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Howdy New York!

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:15pm
Many of you have noticed that I don't like getting up early. And you've noticed that I like to travel. And we've all noticed that these don't go together very well.

Last Friday I eagerlysullenlyjumped crawled out of bed at a very early hour. I did the morning stuff, grabbed my last-minute items, stuffed them in my suitcases and headed off for Oakland Airport. I was parking at a different lot this time; our return plane was arriving after midnight and I didn't want to be all alone in the cold dark waiting for a shuttle. I got to Oakland fairly quickly and drove into the lot. I talked the with attendant and realized that I was in the wrong place. D'oh! I got to the correct lot, caught the shuttle, arrived at OAK and stood in line at Jet Blue to get a boarding pass and check in my suitcase. Waiting waiting waiting waiting why do they tell us to arrive so early if only one person is working then??

Because I'm itchy about being early it didn't matter how long the lines were. I just didn't feel like standing in them! I eventually checked my case, made it through security and to the gate where the rest of the gang was sitting around. Waiting. Bree, Claudia, Rocky, Phil and Olivia had gotten there a bit before I had and were chowing down on breakfast burritos. Yum? I'd made a Trader Joe's run the day before so I had a sandwich and salad waiting for my hunger. Not to mention the other snacks and food I tend to take to marathons, just in case the city to which I'm going doesn't have any food. Or something like that. Can't be starving the days before the marathon, right?

I enjoyed the flight, thanks in part to my brother. We had been talking while I was browsing iTunes looking for something to watch during the flight. On his recommendation I downloaded Season 1 of Eureka. I made it through the pilot and the next couple of episodes and thought they were great. I also read for a while, knit for a while, ate for a while, walked up and down the aisles for a while, listened to some music for a while, watched the plane's tv for a while. Yup, the flight was long enough for all of that. The only thing I didn't do was sleep a while but we all knew I wouldn't do that. We arrived at JFK nice and early, apparently the tail winds were pretty strong that day.

We all trooped down to get our luggage and met up with Jeanette, who had arrived a little earlier. Our limo-from-hell came, we crammed inside with our bags, and picked up Petra who had flown on a different airline. We reshuffled bags and people and somehow fit everyone inside and headed off for Manhattan. Slowly, since there was traffic. I think there's always traffic, it didn't matter that it was what everywhere normal would call rush hour. Claudia and Olivia talk about the deficient driver, read it there! On our way we were able to see the Empire State Building lit in ING Marathon colors, very cool.

Check-in went very smoothly and Petra and I took the elevator up to our 19th floor room. I walked in and experienced some deja vu. I had stayed at a Hilton in Portland and in Chicago and I swear they had the exact room furnishings, including wallpaper, in all the rooms. In fact, in Portland I was on the same floor. Cue Twilight Zone music here! This time they'd managed to give us two beds so at least there was that. I think the bathroom was smaller than in the other cities but otherwise the room were the same.

We quickly freshened up and met the gang back in the lobby to head over for dinner. Claudia had efficiently made all the dinner plans so we just followed along to the restaurant. Where there was a huge crowd waiting to get in. We mingled outside, getting grumpier and hungrier while our tables were readied. Unfortunately there were too many of us so we had to split into small groups. And one group was upstairs and one downstairs, so we couldn't even shout at each other across the restaurant. It was that kind of place, loud enough that nobody would even notice.

I'm not much of a pasta fancier and Carmine's is the old fashioned New York kind of family-style Italian restaurant. Big portions, big plates, big tables, big noise. The only thing small was the wine glass but that was ok, we're not supposed to be drinking anyway. Bwahahaha! We decided on a number of pasta dishes, salads and veggies and then someone ordered the cheesy garlic bread. Oh Yum! That bread made up for waiting so long! In fact, we didn't need any of the other food, just more cheesy bread.

We left the restaurant and were surprised that fireworks were going off. I know we're from the big city ourselves but we felt (and probably looked) like rubes from a small town in the middle of nowhere; ooohing and aaahing in Mid-Town while staring at the brightly lit sky, the crowds, the street vendors. What a nice welcome to all the runners and their families and friends!

We got back to our room and turned in kinda early. Saturday morning we met up with the group across the street from the hotel at the local Starbucks. No, the other one. No, the other one. I think there was one on every block in NY. Yeah, just like here. We were surprised to see that the International Friendship Run was apparently going right past our front door and they were closing down the street. We were going to wait and watch the end but decided to head over to the expo and try to beat the crowds. Good luck with that!
We caught the shuttle and went to Javits Center where the expo was being held. I've got to say that it beats the crap out of any other convention center I've even seen. That place is enormous. Again, the walking around like a rube thing.

After the expo we caught the shuttle back and decided to have lunch since we certainly wouldn't want to miss a meal the day before the race, right? We decided on Carnegie Deli, although I had hoped to go there after the race instead of the day before. Being pre-race limited my choices but I had a wonderful smoked whitefish with bagel platter. I enjoyed watching the native Californians in the group look at the ginormous sandwiches and the strange pickles. Someone asked if they had any smaller sandwiches and the waiter said no, only bigger. And bigger they certainly were. We all ate way more than we should have and then oozed our stuffed bodies out of there. In part because of paranoia about morning troubles and in part to walk off the huge lunch a few of us went to find the correct subway to take to the ferry in the morning. I think NY wins: their subway workers are rude and have no information about anything. BART workers may be rude, but at least they normally know the lines and stations and trains. We figured out what, when and where and got back to the surface world. We decided to walk to one yarn shop, Stitches East. I'd link to their website but they apparently don't have one. They also didn't have any interesting or original yarn, nor did they have anyone who was interested in helping us out or even talking with us. Whatever, we were happy to browse and walk out without any purchases. There are way too many other yarn shops to spend money in a place like that.

Claudia, Bree and I headed back to the hotel while Petra continued walking around. I set out all my race gear, making a final decision on clothes. I lay down for a bit and rested and what do you know, it was time for dinner already.

Once again Claudia had made dinner arrangements, and at another pasta joint. I mean nice Italian restaurant. Angelo's Pizza is right next to the Late Show building. We were seated quickly, upstairs, and then ignored for a while. This was another bustling place, lots of people, lots of noise. We didn't do family style this time and we enviously watched the guys eat pizza while we had regular pasta. Darn!
As a nice surprise, as we walked outside there were fireworks going off. How very special, to be in Manhattan on a cold night before a marathon and have our very own personal fireworks! We hung out for a while watching and waiting for the rest of the gang to find something for their pre-race breakfast. After that we headed back to the hotel to try to get some sleep. As a very special plus, we were getting the extra hour as the country switched off of daylight savings times. Thanks Congress!

Fast forward about 22 hours and I made it back to the hotel after the race, freezing and shivering and sore. Very often during a race I manage to de-magnetize my room key and I was afraid I had done it again. I had a horrible vision of hanging out in the hallway, too sore and tired to go anywhere. I didn't know where Petra was and I didn't have my cell phone to call her (and I didn't know her number). I also didn't have any identification with me and was afraid the hotel would laugh at me if I needed a new key. Luckily not only did my card work, but Petra was in the room waiting for my return.

I was a little hypothermic and decided that an ice bath would just be stupid. I needed to warm up since I had no feeling in my fingers and the rest of my body was icy. I stood in the hot shower for at least a half hour, slowly getting that tingly blood-returning-to-extremities feeling in fingers and toes. I dried off, dressed warmly and jumped into bed to rest.

Since it was so late I didn't hang out there for long; I was hungry and wanted a drink, and Petra was hungry too. I got dressed and we went to the hotel lobby bar for a congratulatory cocktail. The server did a fabulous job of ignoring us so Petra went up to the bar for drinks. Yikes, New York! Almost $14 for a call martini?? Damn good thing we hadn't wanted something special. I had asked for extra olives in my drink, which normally means they'll give you 3. I had a good giggle when I saw there were 6 large olives in the drink. Appetizers! Thank you for the drink, Petra!

We walked a couple of blocks away to the Heartland Brewery. I thought about having their Smiling Pumpkin Ale but decided to go with the Cider. Great decision; one of the best hard ciders I've had. Not too sweet, not too dry, just right. Although I was hungry I didn't want anything heavy so I went with the grilled tuna sandwich. A large hunk of fresh tuna, grilled on the outside and red on the inside, on a fresh bun with a caper dressing. Just what I wanted and very delicious. I finished it and the alcohol went straight to my head: time for bed!
Monday morning we were meeting the gang in the lobby to go to breakfast and and make plans for the day. It took for-freaking-ever to get downstairs on the elevators since a conference was starting that morning. The marathoners were trying to check out and the advertising people were trying to cheek in and sell things. We waited and waited and finally jammed onto the crowded box and rode down. Gulp - very claustrophobic!

The rest of our peeps had decided to just have breakfast in the hotel's cafe. Petra and I looked at the menu and the prices, and along with Bree decided that their $27 buffet or anything on the menu was ridiculously overpriced so we walked out to find somewhere else. We ended up at Lindy's (which I found out later isn't the original Lindy's since they were bought by a conglomerate). I couldn't decide between eggs or pancakes or blintzes so I got a side of bacon and a piece of cherry cheesecake. The waitress gave me a look, then shook her head in dismay. Hey, just bring me the food and some coffee and let me worry about my arteries! It was the perfect day-after-race meal. We ate our food, sat around, talked, planned out our shopping for the day. Bree, with very good nature, agreed to come along on our yarn crawl despite not being a knitter. We were doing a very quick tour of NY, knit-style. We actually managed to use the subway system and not get (too) lost!

First stop, School Products Co., Inc. Little did I know upon approaching this place that it was the oldest yarn shop in Manhattan, nor did I know what a lovely lady the owner, Berta Karapetyan is. We had the shop to ourselves and wandered through, fondling the luxurious yarns. You know what a sucker I am for something soft and the Italian Donegal Cashmere Tweed was just that. I bought enough for a scarf and as an impulse while I was checking out, also bought a few skeins of this silk/cashmere yarn that was by the counter. Great shop with high quality, unusual yarns. I recommend it!
Next stop, Knit New York. Another cute place, looking like it had once been a cafe or restaurant. Or even someone's home. A nice selection of yarns but nothing that jumped out at me and said "take me home." I did buy a pattern though, the Wonderful Wallaby. Someday I'll be graduating from hats and scarves!

Moving on (after trying on some shoes and boots along the way) to Purl Soho. This was a tiny little place absolutely stuffed with yarn. Do you like Koigu? You'd love it here! Their selection of Kersti and KPPPM is incredible, leading me to stand in front of the shelves with my mouth open. I managed to walk out of there with only 6 skeins, two scarves worth. I'm going to love knitting this stuff! When I get around to it. By this time it was getting later and Petra had to catch her shuttle to the airport. Bree and I decided to follow her back uptown and wander around there, maybe doing a bit more shopping. And shop we did! We went in and out of a couple places and finally ended up at Rockefeller Center. We watched people falling on the ice and noticed a crowd over at the side. It turned out the be the writer's strike. My heart goes out to these people, walking the line. Good luck to them! As a final NY thing I bought a load of the "pashmina" scarves from a street vendor. Yeah, pashmina my ass. Probably nylon and acrylic but the colors are pretty, they're soft and cheap and will make great gifts.

We headed back to the hotel, figuring we'd have a (grossly overpriced) drink before meeting up with the others to go to the airport. Claudia, Rocky and Olivia ended up joining us in the noisy, overcrowded bar to have a bit of alcohol to prepare us for the limo. We were happily surprised that our return ride was in a big Suburban, with a knowledgeable driver who got us through rush hour traffic lickety split.

We were vastly lucky that our return flight was less than half full. After taxiing forever (I swear we drove all the way to Jersey before wheels up) I moved to an empty row and was able to put my feet up while I watched another couple of episodes of Eureka. Finally we landed, retrieved our luggage, waited for the shuttle, got our cars and headed home.

At just about 2 am I pulled into my drive. Home sweet home!

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